Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Games for Health

For decades, games have been associated with negative images of children becoming sloths either in a dark room playing on the computer or on the couch playing on the traditional console. It has only been in recent years that leaders have realized the potential to utilize games in a healthy application.

In realizing this potential, the first ever Games for Health Europe conference was announced for October 24-25 in Amsterdam.

PMLive interviewed the organizer of the event, Jurriaan van Rijswijk, a 15-year veteran of the gaming industry. Here are his thoughts on the shifting movement of games and why they can now effectively be used to promote healthy living.

Changing attitudes
The stereotyped image of feckless, often introverted children - generally male - was actually a product of the Nintendo era, from the mid-1980s, according to Ian Bogost’s book ‘How To Do Things with Videogames.’ Ironically, a pivotal moment in accelerating the games for health movement was the launch of the Nintendo Wii in 2006, heralding the entry of physical interface games into the mainstream.

“The Wii was hardly the first example of this type of game.” This accolade went to Dance Dance Revolution. "However, it attached a very popular brand name to that effort, and it put it on television ads and got it into people's homes. It made games for health impossible to ignore."

Technology developments
Motion sensors may have transformed the gaming category, but new interface systems, such as cameras that allow the body to be the control device - already on the market in the form of Microsoft's Xbox Kinect system - are the next step forward, according to van Rijswijk. Web startup, Green Goose, uses embedded wireless sensors, which can be attached to everyday items and monitor physical actions. The company is developing games that will turn everyday activities into games such as brushing your teeth on time and exercising regularly.

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